Dead Exaltation – Despondent Review

Technical death metal is one of those “hit or miss” genres for me. While I find the intricate rhythms and minigun note delivery intoxicating at times, I still require the style’s purveyors to provide that thing for which I look in all of my metal endeavors: the almighty riff. Genre legends Cryptopsy shred like no other, but they undergird their sound with a buttload of groove, and modern technical titans Archspire and Cytotoxin make sure to riff just as hard as they noodle. While I generally don’t love overly gore-themed releases due to the nature of my work, the pickings were fairly slim for this week. So I took a chance and picked up Despondent, the debut release from India’s Dead Exaltation, nasty artwork and all. Here’s hoping that it will satiate my craving for chunky noodles.

The promo for Despondent claims Cryptopsy as a primary influence for Dead Exaltation, and after spending time with the record, I’d have to agree. Add in the brutal groove of Cannibal Corpse, and we’re in the right ballpark. Do yourself a favor and start the embedded single “Coerced Sewer Ingest” right now if you haven’t already. The churning intro riff gives way to a snarling groove that gives me Rocky-punch face every time it hits, and while the rhythms eventually get a bit more complex, the short track demonstrates Dead Exaltation‘s greatest strength: the ability to explore technical and progressive territory while remaining resolutely focused on crafting strong songs with killer riffs.

And perhaps the thing that’s most surprising about Despondent is the sheer amount of death metal sounds that can be found within its 33 minute runtime. While “Coerced Sewer Ingest” remains fairly close to standard death metal, tracks like “The Psychology” and “The Transformation” show the band flexing their progressive muscles. The former contains a mostly uplifting and cleanly played instrumental section, and the latter roars with furious, groove-filled, tech-death might. The progressive melo-blackened death of “Omnia Mors Aequat” will please Slugdge fans, and “In Pursuit Of” and the title track close things out with some surprisingly melodic death metal.

But is there too much variety to be found within the Dead Exaltation sound? I wouldn’t quite go that far, but you can tell that the relatively young band is still determining the direction that their sound will eventually go. The aforementioned clean instrumental found on “The Psychology” seems out of place on a record focused on such dark themes — I read the lyrics included with the promo, and the procedures described on “Involuntary Emasculation” encouraged my already diminutive package to practically shrink into nothingness. The record also suffers from a huge misstep in the form of “The Conversation,” a nearly three minute, dramatic, spoken-word dialogue. While it may play some role in the album’s story, it’s a major buzzkill after the first two proper tracks have built a tremendous amount of momentum. Of course, this problem was easily remedied on repeat listens by skipping the track altogether, but I found its presence annoying given the fact that the album already begins with an overlong atmospheric intro piece. There are more than enough natural respites from the band’s brutality in the way that they include melody on the record, so no such break is needed.

The size of that last paragraph might lead you to believe that I should have scored Despondent lower than I did, but if I’m being objective, the record is still almost all killer. The proper tracks all have something to look forward to, and the band’s talent is impressive. I predict that Dead Exaltation will eventually hone their compositional skill down to a sharpness that will place them among the top tiers of the brutal/tech death game. But for now, check this out and enjoy of deep riffness.


Rating: 3.0/5.0
DR: 7 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Self-released
Websites: deadexaltation.bandcamp.com | facebook.com/deadexaltation
Releases Worldwide: February 5th, 2021

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